When booking a vacation upon a luxurious cruise liner, most people envision themselves indulging in fine cuisine, enjoying live performances, and soaking up the sun on the top decks of the massive ship. Few people would expect to be clinging onto a rope on the ship’s hull awaiting rescue as the ship sinks into the middle of the sea.
When the Costa Concordia struck shallow rocks off the Italian coast and began to sink, Benji Smith and his family were forced to make a daring evacuation, rappelling down the side of the boat after being left onboard. When they were rescued three hours later, the couple found themselves in Italy with no money, no passports and no luggage. Smith tells the incredible story of their brave evacuation and the ensuing days of their disastrous vacation in his novel Abandon Ship.
Now Smith wants to help you tell your story.
Smith has created a desktop application called Shaxpir, what he describes as “software for storytellers.” Shaxpir is designed to create a better writing experience for authors to work on their own novels and memoirs.
Shaxpir comes with numerous features such as cloud based storage, version history, and Shaxpir tracks your daily writing progress to assist you on completing your goals. Sahxpir’s layout includes a margin where users can create ideas, settings, themes and characters and room to insert artwork to bring these things to life. A detailed notes section allows authors to incorporate ideas into different pieces, cataloging character relationships or cross referencing themes. Movable chapters allow for an author to start wherever they feel is important and move anything around, as well as divide chapters into acts, scenes, or parts. When you are finished with your work, Shaxpir creates an Epub, which uploads your work to major distributing companies like Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
What Smith seems most excited about is more than just what the tools the application has to offer. Shaxpir includes collaboration features that will pair authors together that have similar writing tendencies and focus on similar genre. The goal is to be able to share ideas or to have another author edit your work and tell you what they think.
“Our goal is not to sell software; our goal is to produce great stories.” Smith said, “That’s where we will make our real money and make our real mark on the world.”
After launching publicly in February, Smith disclosed his desire to bring users in through community building rather than advertising. One idea Smith has is producing a podcast that will assist authors with the mechanics of storytelling.
“I want to produce our own podcast because there are certain things I believe about storytelling and literature that I want to become the fundamental gospel truths of this community.” Smith explains, “By producing that podcast it’s advertisement that will bring people in the door, but then it’s also ongoing training that will increase people’s writing skills, and it also creates a culture of unity for all the people that listen to it.”
Smith also strongly believes in the importance of face-to-face interaction especially when it comes to something as personal as sharing your writing. Smith wants to coordinate workshops where a consistent group of users can meet and build a writing community between Shaxpir users in their local area.
“There is a combination of using this word processor, and you listen to this podcast, and you attended these writing workshops, and I consider all of those to be a part of the product.” Smith said.
“The special magic in the literature industry comes from writers, and writers have been ignored as a cog in a machine,” explained Smith, “It feels like nobody ever thought to consider that the real value in the literature that is being distributed comes through the writing process. We want to capture that value where it’s created.”
When asked what advice Smith would have to future writers and entrepreneurs, Smith explained “Start with the thing that is most important to you. When I write I don’t start from chapter one and write to the end, I start from a particular premise. From that center point, you can spiral out from there,” says Smith.
“Build something for yourself, that you would use.” Smith continued, “Not because you do something more efficiently, but because you believe you will do things better because you understand the heart of the matter, more than someone that wants to operationalize their efficacies. Because you want to attack things from the heart.”